Carex pleiostachys


Carex: Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.

Common Name(s)

Fiordland Sedge

Current Conservation Status

2012 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon

Conservation status of New Zealand indigenous vascular plants, 2012
The conservation status of all known New Zealand vascular plant taxa at the rank of species and below were reassessed in 2012 using the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZTCS). This report includes a statistical summary and brief notes on changes since 2009 and replaces all previous NZTCS lists for vascular plants. Authors: Peter J. de Lange, Jeremy R. Rolfe, Paul D. Champion, Shannel P. Courtney, Peter B. Heenan, John W. Barkla, Ewen K. Cameron, David A. Norton and Rodney A. Hitchmough. File size: 792KB

Previous Conservation Status

2009 - At Risk - Naturally Uncommon
2004 - Range Restricted


2012 - RR, Sp
2009 - DP


Carex pleiostachys C.B.Clarke in Cheeseman



Flora Category

Vascular - Native

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class





Endemic. South Island, Fiordland coastline only.


Coastal. Said to be a conspicuous species of seal haul outs, and both seal and penguin (rock hopper) colonies. It is known to grow within peaty soil under low shrubs, and on open cobble, and sand beaches. It also colonies cliff faces. It extends well inland up the fiords and has been collected from shingle at various river mouths.


Pale green, densely tufted and leafy sedge of coastal slopes, boulder and cobble beaches and cliff faces. Culms 100-300 x 0.5-1 mm, terete, glabrous; basal sheaths light brown to reddish brown. Leaves distinctly > culms in length, 1-1.5 mm wide, usually concave on the upper surface, often with a obvious median groove, and convex on the underside, margins scabrid with the apices much curled; sheaths rather long, extending for up to ½ the length of the lamina. Inflorescence comprised of 5-7 spikes, these 10-20 x 4-7 mm. The terminal spike male; remaining spikes female, with occasional male spikes near the base. Uppermost spikes more or less approximate, sessile, lower spikes shortly pedunculate, the lower most typically set well back and more distant from the others; leaf-like bracts subtending spikes long with distinctly curled apices. Glumes (excluding awn) almost equal to or just shorter than utricles, ovate, acute or emarginated, membranous, cream with light brown striae, midrib paler, prolonged as a scabrid awn of varying length. Utricles 3-4 x 1 mm, subtrigonous, narrow-lanceolate, green to greenish-brown with white to pale brown nerves, this fading at maturity, margins glabrous; beak tapering gradually, 1-1.5 mm long, crura bifid, glabrous; stipe 0.5 mm long. Stigmas 3. Nut 2 mm long, dark brown, oblong-obovoid, trigonous.

Similar Taxa

Somewhat similar to C. comans Bergg. with which it shares narrow, concavo-convex leaves and short, light coloured spikes. Nevertheless, C. pleiostachys differs from C. comans by its broader spikelets, and glabrous rather than scabrid-beaked utricles. Carex pleiostachys is also superficially similar to C. fretalis Hamlin from which it differs by its approximate rather than evenly spaced spikes, and presence of a distinctive utricle beak (virtually absent in C. fretalis). In C. fretalis the crura is distinctly scabrid while in C. pleiostachys it is entirely glabrous.





Propagation Technique

As far as is known this species has yet to be cultivated. It would probably be easily grown and tolerant of most conditions provided it was planted in a moist soil.


Because of the remote and hazardous nature of the Fiordland coastline this species is not very well known. Preliminary surveys and past field reports suggest that it is locally abundant along some parts of the coastline. For this reason it is currently viewed as a localised, range restricted species. Further survey to clarify status is desired

Endemic Taxon


Endemic Genus


Endemic Family


Life Cycle and Dispersal

Nuts surrounded by inflated utricles are dispersed by granivory and wind (Thorsen et al., 2009).

Where To Buy

Not commericially available.


Description adapted from Moore and Edgar (1970)

References and further reading

Moore, L.B.; Edgar, E. 1970: Flora of New Zealand. Vol. II. Government Printer, Wellington.

Thorsen, M. J.; Dickinson, K. J. M.; Seddon, P. J. 2009. Seed dispersal systems in the New Zealand flora. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2009 Vol. 11 No. 4 pp. 285-309

This page last updated on 30 May 2014